A few years ago, I stumbled on a bunch of very impressive Indonesian crust punk bands on Bandcamp. I’d really only heard a handful of Indonesian bands before, and discovering those ear-splitting groups was something of a re-energizing musical experience for me. It was a reminder to not get stuck in the humdrum routine of listening to the same old sounds over and over. And an even firmer reminder to keep searching for new music, from all corners of the globe.
What impressed me most about all the Indonesian punk bands I stumbled on was that every single one of them exhibited a fierce DIY ethic. Their determination to foster their local scenes was clearly evident, and their drive to be heard outside of Indonesia was admirable too. Especially as many of them had to overcome hurdles that most Western bands will never encounter.
Clearly, political, religious and social issues can make life difficult for underground musicians in Indonesia. Some of the unorthodox music that Indonesian musicians create, and some of the accompanying aesthetics, conflict with social mores. So, it’s not uncommon for Indonesian musicians to have to carve out creative spaces in the face of opposition.
As we all know, some of the most subversive and groundbreaking music in the world is forged in just such volatile environments. That said, although Indonesia does have its fair share of social and economic troubles, and subsequently a whole bunch of really great noisemakers, it’d be ridiculous to pigeonhole the country as one thing or another.
Indonesia is an archipelago, made up of thousands of islands, and it’s home to scores of different ethnic groups and languages. Nothing is black or white in Indonesia. Nothing is clear-cut. And that vibrant diversity, and incongruity, is vividly represented on Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015: 20 Years of Experimental Music from Indonesia.
*Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 *is the latest tape and digital release from acclaimed New Zealand label End of the Alphabet Records. (Look out a label profile and some of End of the Alphabet Records’ other new releases here at Six Noises very soon.) *Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 *has been curated and compiled by Indonesian musician Indra Menus––who is probably best known to extreme music fans outside Indonesia as a member of noisecore crew To Die––and the album features a striking cover and artwork by Wedhar Riyadi.
Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 kicks off with a gnarled roar from opening band Worldhate, before blasting into the far reaches via 18 tracks that draw from the past two decades of left-field and experimental Indonesian music. There’s a huge assortment of frequently dissonant and always explorative sounds on offer. You’ll encounter Senyawa’s percussive tribal tumult. Hissing horrortronics courtesy of Electrocore. Burrowing-under-your-skin noise by Seek Six Sick. Glitchy cut-and-paste pandemonium from SKM. And Black Ribbon provides some acid for your ear canals as well.
Elsewhere, there are twisted beeps and blips from Satan Loves Nintendo. Fittingly cacophonous endtimes thunder from Apocalyptcore. Sci-fi grind by Sound of Human Pollution. To Die’s always corrosive commotion. And Melcyd melds nose-bleeding frequencies with gentler sounds too.
I could go on, but you get the point. There are plenty of different strains of harsh noise, feedback and electronic dementedness to be found. In fact, with artists hailing from “Java, Bali, Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and spots in between”, *Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 *not only highlights the exploration of plenty of raucous musical ideas, it also shines a light on a lot of differing musical interpretations and accents.
Personally, I’ve got zero complaints about Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015. I think it’s a fascinating and altogether eye-opening compilation. But you know how nerdy some folks can get about music––especially fans of ultra-niche noise. I guarantee there’ll be at least one pedantic noise completist out there who’ll complain that the album just isn’t extensive enough. And, like any compilation gathering a raft of bands together, and aiming to provide an overview of two decades of diverse music, there obviously will be names missing.
Still, you can’t really expect *Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 *to tell a two-decade tale in 18 tracks. So if a few musicians are absent, that’s entirely understandable. However, if you’re hankering for a more extensive compilation, the good news is that the album’s curator, Menus, has put the call out for labels interested in releasing a whopping 117 track DVD version of Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015. Which he’s hoping to get released in early 2016.
In the meantime, these 18 tracks provide a excellent survey of 20 years of unconventional Indonesian music. *Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 *is a first-rate introduction to––and illumination of––Indonesia’s offbeat-music history. An essay printed on the tape’s inner cover provides plenty of additional details too. And for anyone unfamiliar with the depth or backstory of Indonesian avant-garde music, thisis the perfect release to spark an interest in the scene, and to open the door to a new realm of noise.
Ultimately,* Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 *is yet another superb release from End of the Alphabet Records. Like the best compilations do, it’ll definitely leave you feeling like you want to explore further. For anyone curious about strident and mind-melting music, it’s a goldmine of gloriously grotesque and idiosyncratic delights drawn from across Indonesia’s maverick musical history. Highly recommended for both long-term noiseniks and fans new to outré musical mayhem.